Saturday, September 08, 2007

I wonder if there'll be a trend of begrudgingly liking James Wright. "Well it's not that bad." That kind of thing. I've written a little about how much I used to like his poems. He's definitely still one of those poets a student who doesn't know anything about contemporary poetry encounters first. Jonathan Mayhew makes a pretty good point here about the translated feel of the poetry. Those poets, from what I can tell, were obsessed with the idea that the only deep poets were Lorca, Vallejo, Rilke and a few others. Kind of a reverse xenophobia. But it seems people like Robret Bly made an artificial connection between these poets. Almost an ideology, which in part became the men's movement. There's a line in Robert Bly, that's like beating you over the head-- "innerness, innerness, innerness". Until one dissappears up one's own asshole? I dunno. You can't say that LV&R, though they became the flagships of "leaping poetry" are all from the same school. I don't know if they ever even met. Maybe Lorca met Vallejo at some point. I know Neruda met Lorca. We can probably thank Robert Bly for the instant association between Lorca and Duende. Of course I was guilty of all these things. In the end, there's something to be said for just taking James Wright's poems as "their own thing". I don't think art happens in a vacuum either, but sometimes the "own thing" approach allows one to do a more close reading. That's only one of the many angles from which one can approach a poem, but an important one once a person has already been inundated with so much background knowledge.


K. Silem Mohammad said...

Almost everyone I know, myself included, likes "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota." Julia Cohen remarks, though, that it would be better if it were just the title and the last line ("I have wasted my life"). I think she's right.

richard lopez said...

wright is indeed one of those poets i met with in my early 20s, much like dylan thomas and rimbaud was in my late teens, who i still have a tremendous affection for. i agree that wright and those other 'deep image' poets like some of big jim dickey and all of bly were obsessed with the translation of poems, something that i still think is fertile ground. it wasn't just the spanish-language surrealists that wright obsessed over, he was nuts about trakl too i think, and lots and lots of poets living and dead. his kind of erudition is something to be envied i would hazard to say. in the end he was a dude who was so in love with poetry even if he was also a megalomaniac. i've read and reread his collected over the years and i think the deliberate clunkiness of his lines in his later work is a bit of genius.

check out the paris review interview here

i agree with kasey that many of his poems are rather dated - such as his poem 'lying in a field' and yes it was a wasted life. i intend to waste mine in a similar fashion.

Mike H said...

It seems like Wright was one of those poets who could write really really beautiful lines, but it's rather laborious to read an entire poem. Yeah, the clunkiness...

zdpieper said...

"it's own thing" is a phrase I
am keen to apply.

But this whole "James Wright isn't
so bad" thing....I dunno.

I think maybe alot of poets associate his poetry with Poetry
Workshops in general, that sterile post-Workshop-straightforwardness
often encouraged. The whole: "let's
write what we know!" thing. Oh, and
"beautiful images ect."

But doesn't it seem a little wierd
to have the point of discussing
his poems be "oh he's not so bad
after all, see?". I mean, who ever decided his poetry wasn't aesthetically relevant in the first

Are we re-evaluating? Good a day
for it as any.

Mike H said...

I guess I was speaking in terms of my own taste. Also I was kind of trying to be funny-- the idea of begrudgingly liking a certain poet is kind of silly, and yet practical. But then a trend around based around saying "James Wright is not so bad". Woo! Get out your hankies-- your laughing hankies that is! Sometimes it's interesting though to think why you're not into something so much as before.

richard lopez said...

mike, i've the same attitude you for bukowski as you have for wright. for me wright is still an important poet, tho many of the writers i esteemed in my late teens and early 20s are no longer so important to me, such as robert lowell or anne sexton.

bukowski is i think not so bad but the deliberate tuff guy posing and his flat lines often leave me cold. but there is a talent there that strikes me sometimes right in the solar plexus.

i don't know what a workshop poem is, and i'd assume that most people who are poets have taken just that very thing. perhaps, wright's reputation suffers from neglect because the focus of present-day writing is not what the same as what it was in wright's day. whatever that means, i suppose.

even still, tastes are always changing. and it comes down to a matter of individual aesthetics and tastes. sorta like loving the band rush at age 13, then later discovering black flag at age 15, and wondering what the fuck what you ever saw in rush at all.

zdpieper, gonna start a blog? was just asking mike about you, since i found a few photos of you and mike reading online last week, got curious and started looking for yr work online.

just a few stray thoughts
from a disorganized system